September 12, 2012 in Opinion

Editorial: Idaho voters having a say doesn’t equal ‘disruption’

 

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

Members of The Spokesman-Review editorial board help to determine The Spokesman-Review's position on issues of interest to the Inland Northwest. Board members are:

Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna complains that a possible voter overturn of his Students Come First reform plan will be a “disruption.”

For a definition, check for synonyms under “democracy” in the household dictionary. Or online.

Americans have been disruptive since the original Tea Party. That colonists might object to a tax on their beverage seems not to have occurred to the British Parliament.

So too, apparently, with the reforms enacted by the Idaho Legislature in 2011 that prompted a drive that collected the requisite signatures on three repeal measures in just a little more time than it took the founders to ink the Declaration of Independence.

Students Come First constricted collective bargaining for teachers, implemented a merit-pay system, and mandated computer-only classes for high school seniors.

Rewarding better teachers and familiarizing every student with online education resources are good ideas. The Idaho Education Association was on board with pay-for-performance before the Legislature moved to fund potential raises by reducing pay for all teachers. That, and shifting more dollars to technology while restricting teacher negotiations to pay and benefit issues only – with no more money on the table – has utterly soured teacher relationships with Luna and legislators who supported the “Luna Laws.”

Adding to the resentment: A follow-up measure that implemented the reforms on an emergency basis instead of holding off until the Nov. 6 election. That’s kind of a disruption, isn’t it?

Trust Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa to have a little more perspective. His comment to Northwest Cable News when the signatures were submitted to his office:

“Obviously we have the state Legislature, but we also have the people who have reserved for themselves legislative power to reject legislation, that’s the referendum. That’s the people’s right to legislate, and that’s on equal footing with the Legislature’s right to legislate.”

The odds remain in the Legislature’s favor. Only one of four previous efforts to undo the lawmakers’ work has succeeded.

But disruption happens.

The Washington Legislature tried to close the state budget gap in 2010 by raising or imposing new taxes on beer, pop, bottled water and candy. The levies would have raised well over $100 million, but voters spiked them all in that November’s election. More budget cutting ensued, and continues, unsettling the lives of thousands of state residents.

For big-time disruption, check out the Chicago teachers’ strike, another tussle involving merit pay in a system where the average teacher takes home more than $70,000 per year.

Idaho voters will soon be subjected to very expensive campaigns from both sides of the education reform debate. If students truly come first – not politics – the disruption can be kept to a minimum.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.


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